Developing a research question

Your research questions are perhaps the most important part of your study. They guide your choice of methodology and underpin each chapter in your thesis or dissertation. It’s worth investing time to develop robust questions that will guide your research.

Identifying an effective research question

While the criteria for an effective research question vary considerably, generally, a research question should be:

  • focused – its scope should be adequately narrow to allow you to carry out your research within the available timeframe and using available resources.
  • analytical (as opposed to descriptive) – your research question needs to display enough complexity so that the answers to it cannot be easily obtained. For example, it cannot be answered through a simple internet search or fact check. An effective research question would require answers which are subject to interpretation, analysis and synthesis.
  • effectively expressed – the research question needs to use clear, specific and concise language so that it is accessbile to the reader.



Strategies for developing effective research questions

To develop effective research questions, you may like to try one of the following two key strategies:

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I) Convert your topic into one or more research questions by:

  1. breaking down your topic into its different features
  2. choosing a feature that interests you to narrow down your topic scope
  3. brainstorming and reading literature around this feature to focus it further
  4. convert this focused feature into question form.

II) Formulate a problem statement and then convert it into question form. Use the following template as a guide to writing your problem statement:

  1. I am examining …
  2. Because …
  3. It matters because…

The following presentation shows how to use the above discussed strategies for developing robust research questions. Work through each section of the webinar. Feel free to pause the video at suitable points and complete the included activities.

Presentation on developing research questions (12:54 min)

Developing your research questions (12:54 min) by RMIT University (YouTube)

Further resources

For more information on research questions, consult the following resources:


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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